Saturday 30 May 2020

Together Things

Together Things by Michelle Vasiliu and Gwynneth Jones (EK Books)
ISBN 9781925820294 RRP $24.99 HB

Reviewed by Nean McKenzie

This picture book explores the issue of children with parents who suffer from mental health issues. With colourful illustrations, Together Things is a story about a girl who spends quality time with her father doing fun activities. When her dad gets sick and must go to hospital, the girl needs to find new pastimes suitable for the new situation. And although different, these ‘together things’ can be just as much fun.  

The first part of the book shows the ‘normal’ things the girl and her father do together: swinging, climbing, swimming, and playing with insects and the cat. The middle part of the story is about her dad getting sick and going to hospital and how that makes the girl feel – ‘Sometimes it makes me feel sad too. Or angry mad’. The last part of the story shows the new quieter activities: reading, drawing, watching TV, listening to music, and cuddling under the blankets. These show how we sometimes need to adapt to allow time to heal.

A recurring theme through the illustrations are squiggles in different colours in the background of the other pictures. But when the dad is sick, all that is left is stark blue doodles on a white background. Gradually the scribbles are replaced with pictures again (including a picture of doodles when drawing). This is a good illustrative device to show emotion and mood and finishes things off on a positive note.

The author Michelle Vasiliu works in mental health peer support for Families Where a Parent has a Mental Illness. She hopes that this book will give people the courage to tackle the topic of mental illness with our children. With one in five adults experiencing depression in their lifetime, it is important to have resources to help young children who are affected.

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